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The Toughest Questions

Man thinking with question mark next to his headGive direct, honest answers. Take your time. Develop the answer in your head before you respond. If you don't understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or clarified. You don't have to rush, but don't be indecisive.

Ask questions in return.

Be prepared. Answering difficult questions that may reflect negatively on you can be answered by using the "sandwich model." This model has a positive statement followed by admitting the negative situation, and ending with another positive statement about what you've done to overcome the problem. Ending with a positive statement leaves a positive impression. Anticipate tough questions and practice interviewing beforehand.

Why were you let go?

Try a few of these examples as a tactic to answering this hardest of questions.

  • My skills are in engineering (or name your field). My employer decided those skills were no longer needed. Therefore, I've taken some training and upgraded my skills (specify) to meet the qualifications for this type of job.

Or, if you were fired, career expert and columnist Joyce Lain Kennedy suggests several great answers, among them the following.

  • I was cut loose and that was a blessing because I got a chance to explore different opportunities like the one we're talking about right now.
  • My competencies weren't a good match with my former employer's needs.
  • The job simply wasn't working out for my boss and me, and we both agreed it was time to move on.
  • The former job was a learning experience, and I'm wiser now and want a chance to prove it.
  • A new manager came in and cleaned house, including me, and I figured it was time to move on, anyway.
  • Certain personal problems that I have surmounted upset my work life. I'm now up and running strong to exceed expectations in a new job. I wanted to move my career in a different direction and that set up the conditions for departure.
  • I usually hit it off with bosses, but this time was an exception. We didn't hit it off and I'm not sure why.
  • My job was offshored to India. I outlasted several downsizings but not the last one.
  • I was desperate for work and took the wrong job.
  • "Keep it brief, keep it honest and keep it moving," she suggests.

It appears you haven't worked in the last five years or 10 years. Why?

I've been busy going to school full time (specify), raising two children and managing my home. Doing that on a daily basis gave me a lot of skills we generally don't acknowledge, like leadership, time management, teaching, coordination, planning and so forth.

I needed to address some health issues. It would not have been fair to an employer if I took too much time off from work. I'm now ready to return to work and give you 100 percent.

I was trained in machine operation while at a correctional facility. I have now completed my GED and am ready to work for you.


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